At every moment, every country has its crises. In America today, the debt, social dissolution in poor black neighborhoods, spiritual despair as evidenced by astounding rates of opiate addiction, and homelessness could all arguably be deemed at crisis or near-crisis levels. Here are two things that aren’t crises: school shootings and Russian election interference.
It goes without saying that any school shooting is an outrage and a tragedy. But homicide rates have been falling for years and even the number of deaths from school shootings is down from the 1990s. As for the recent indictment of thirteen Russian agents for trolling before, during and after the last election, even the Department of Justice admits there is no allegation in the indictments that the Russians had any effect on the election outcome. So basically, the Bear was doing what hostile powers always do to us and vice versa.
But, of course, if you listened to the news media this week, you would think that these were the great problems of the age. Our children are fish in a barrel (they’re not); our murder problem is worse than any other western country (it’s not); our election was a Russian charade (it wasn’t); the Russian troll was worse than Pearl Harbor (oh please!).
Now I suppose it’s possible to excuse American journalists on the basis that they are conscience-less slime just trying to sell more of whatever passes for newspapers nowadays. But that’s too kind. They are, almost all of them, left-wingers, and they are seizing on stories and pushing angles they hope will bolster their anti-gun and anti-Trump narratives. CNN was the most egregious example this week, sinking to levels of unprecedented ugliness and dishonesty. They abused traumatized children by using them to push their political aims. They doxed an ordinary American woman for unwittingly expressing her pro-Trump sentiments through a Russian front group (CNN had sympathetically covered a Russian anti-Trump protest, but no mention of that). And they staged a scripted anti-gun town hall that looked so much like a lynch mob it reminded me of why Americans need guns.
But what would it be like if the news media reformed itself? By that I mean: what would it be like if media outlets placed enough conservatives and Trump supporters in positions of power so that their reporting began to represent something like an objective account rather than the information arm of the Democrat party?
For one thing, Russian trolls and other fake newsers would lose much of their power if we could watch mainstream news with a reasonable degree of certainty that we were getting a fair take on the day’s events. Journalists use President Trump’s eccentricities as an excuse for their hysteria, but the virulent attacks on Republicans have been going on for more than two decades. The only difference between a Russian trying to sow discord with falsehoods and CNN is the accent.
As for violence in schools — or any other persistent problem on which the government cannot seem to act — civil debate between the two sides would be a lot more likely to lead to real action than the mainstream media’s current tactic of one-sided hectoring.
Finally, the widening gap between leftists and conservatives would be a lot easier to heal if leftist outlets like the New York Times (a former newspaper) were not persistently telling us that only one side of the issue is worth listening to and only one political party had decency on its side. You can read the conservative op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal for years and never come upon that sort of childish toxicity.
It used to be said that the weakest argument in politics is to blame the media. That’s no longer true. The media is to blame. We cannot reform mainstream outlets by law, and should not. But if the corporate moguls had an ounce of conscience or patriotism, they would begin to reform themselves.
For more commentary, listen to my podcast Monday through Thursday.